PAWTUCKET — If there’s a problem in his district, State Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr.’s job as a legislator is to react accordingly.
In the case of Pawtucket Country Club, which resides in part of Johnston’s district, he’s asking Gov. Gina Raimondo to alter an executive order to allow Massachusetts residents to tee it up at an 18-hole course that’s unique since it straddles the border of two states.
With 15 of its 18 holes positioned in Massachusetts, the governor’s rule has placed a unique burden on the club. In the wake of Massachusetts recently reopening its golf courses, the country club has permitted Massachusetts residents to play on all holes except those that lie in Rhode Island – the first, 10th and 18th.
Johnston penned a letter to Raimondo on Thursday where he asked the governor for a variance of her executive order, one that would allow Massachusetts residents — at least those from Seekonk or a predetermined distance from the course — to play. He followed up with a three-paragraph correspondence on Friday. As of Friday afternoon, Johnston had yet to receive a reply from the governor.
“It’s something that can’t be legislated. I can’t create a bill,” said Johnston, “but I can make a little noise. I’m advocating for the members who live in my district and the members who live in Seekonk and Rehoboth. The very fact that they’re members means they’re contributing [tax-wise] to the city of Pawtucket.
“We can’t lose Pawtucket Country Club. Enough is enough,” added Johnston about a city that’s lost the Pawtucket Red Sox, seen the closure of Memorial Hospital, and remains on pins and needles regarding Hasbro.
Per Johnston, 65 percent of Pawtucket CC’s members reside in Massachusetts.
“They are dues-paying members, yet they can’t use the golf course in a desirable fashion,” he said.
In conversations with the country club’s ownership, Johnston says considerations have been taken to alleviate health concerns. In some instances, the club is going above and beyond the requirements for golfers.
“They’re doing temperature checks and have four hand-sanitizer stations set up. It’s one person per golf cart and everything is sanitized,” said Johnston. “This coupled with the fact that the very nature of golf lends itself to social distancing with ease, perhaps an arrangement can be made to make an exception for Pawtucket Country Club.”
The Rhode Island portion of Pawtucket CC borders Johnston’s district (Dist. 61) as well as Dist. 62, which is overseen by State Rep. Mary Duffy Messier.
“I’ve spoken to Mary and she’s in total agreement in trying to rectify this problem,” said Johnston, who caddied at Pawtucket CC while in middle school and also had his wedding reception at the club.
“The country club is part of our fabric. Even though I’m not a member, I can’t imagine not having the club,” said Johnston. “All ownership wants is to try to get relief from these executive orders. They want their members to play.”
In his follow-up letter to Gov. Raimondo on Friday, Johnston noted that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has reopened his state’s golf courses with the stipulation that only New Hampshire residents — or golf club members — be allowed to play at them. If Gov. Raimondo’s executive order concerning golf courses was amended to include the same language that’s already being used by a fellow New England state, it would solve the problems experienced by Pawtucket Country Club.
“It would make things easier,” said Johnston when reached Friday.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03